Missy Mazzoli Interview: Friday, 16th August, 2019

August 19, 2019 in All Opportunities, featured by mwhiteside

What’s it like being in Scotland as a composer from NYC for this production of your opera?

It’s incredible to be in Scotland, for an opera that is set in Scotland. Scotland is the DNA of this piece, which is maybe strange coming from an American, who has not spent that much time here! I do have Scottish ancestry, which I found out a couple of months before I originally came to Scotland, which was weird timing, but the landscape really struck me, particularly the landscape of the Isle of Skye, the landscape of the Highlands; it was very different from anything I had ever seen before, and I fell in love with the people and the culture and the language, and the history and everything about this place. It suggested music to me. The story of Breaking the Waves has this whole deep, emotional landscape that really spoke to me; I heard it before I ever really fully conceived of it.

It’s amazing to work in Scotland; everyone is very supportive, very open, and people don’t come in with a lot of ideas about the kind of music you’re supposed to write. I do find that in other countries, that they’re coming at it from a very specific, stylistic point of view, and judging you not on the quality of your work, but based on the things that for me are not necessarily the qualities by which a work should be judged, such as whether your work has pulse, whether your work uses traditional harmony, even if you’re using it in an un-traditional way. So: Scotland I find very open, which is very refreshing.


And how about working with Scottish Opera?

I love Scottish Opera and feel very supported here. I have worked with fantastic companies in America: Opera Philadelphia, Beth Morrison Projects, Opera Omaha; these companies launched my career. It feels important to note that European companies seem to – on the whole – have more resources, and I can’t not bring that up. That affects my whole experience as an artist; you have more rehearsal time, a little more breathing room when making work here, than in the pressure-cooker world of America!

In the past five years, I have spent more time in London than in Scotland, and I have fallen in love with the theatre tradition in the UK and some of my favourite conversations that I’ve had in the last 5 years have been with UK and Ireland-based directors. I know that Scotland has a different scene than London, and what I love about Scotland is that there seems to be a combination of a strong musical tradition, and this openness to other things, stylistically. No-one is coming to me and saying: ‘this is how we make work in Scotland and this is the trajectory that you need to follow’.


Breaking the Waves is part of the Edinburgh International Festival. Tickets and more information are available here https://www.eif.co.uk/whats-on/2019/breakingwaves